Reverend Henry Ward Beecher's remarks at the ceremony restoring the flag to Fort Sumter, South Carolina, April 14, 1865

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    Full transcript reproduced in "Fort Sumter; Restoration of the Stars and Stripes. Solemn and Impressive Ceremonies..." New York Times, April 18, 1865, p. 1. 
    Date Certainty
    John Osborne
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    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.
    On this solemn and joyful day we again lift to the breeze our father's flag, now again the banner of the United States, with the fervent prayer that God would crown it with honor, protect it from treason, and send it down to our children with all the blessings of civilization, liberty and religion. Terrible in battle may it be glorious in peace. Happily no bird or beast of prey has been inscribed upon it. The stars that redeem the night from darkness, and the beams of red light that beautify the morning, have been unfolded. As long as the sun endures, or the stars, may it wave over a nation neither enslaved nor enslaving. [Great applause.] Once, and but once, has treason dishonored it. In that insane hour when the guiltiest and bloodiest rebellion of time hurled their fires upon the fort, you, Sir, [turning to Gen. ANDERSON,] and a small heroic band stood within these now crumbled walls and did gallant and just battle for the honor and defence of the nation's banner. [Applause.] On that cope of fire this glorious flag still peacefully waved to the breeze above your head, unconscious of harm as the stars and skies above it. Once it was shot down; a gallant hand, in whose care this day it has been, plucked it from the ground and reared it again, cast down, but not destroyed. After a vain resistance, with trembling hand and sad heart, you withdrew it from its height, closed its wings and bore it far away, sternly to sleep amid the tumults of rebellion and the thunders of battle. The first act of war had begun. The long night of four years had set in. While the giddy traitors whirled in a maze of exhilaration, dim horrors were already advancing, that were ere long to fill the land with blood. To-day you are returned again; we devoutly join with you in thanksgiving to Almighty God that he has spared your honored life, and vouchsafed you the honors of this day. The heavens over you are the same; these are the same shores. Morning comes and evening as they did. All else how changed! What grim batteries crowd the burdened shores! What scenes have filled this air and disturbed these waters! These shattered heaps of shapeless stones are all that is left of Fort Sumter. Desolation broods in yonder sad city. Solemn retribution hath avenged our dishonored banner. You have come back with honor who departed hence four years ago, leaving the air sultry with fanaticism. The surging crowds that rolled up their frenzied shouts as the flag came down are dead, or scattered, or silent, and their habitations are desolate. Ruin sits in the cradle of treason, rebellion has perished, but there flies the same flag that was insulted. [Great and prolonged applause.] With starry eyes it looks all over this bay for that banner that supplanted it and sees it not. [Applause.] You that then for the day were humbled, are here again to triumph once and forever. [Applause.] In the storms of that assault this glorious ensign was often struck, but it is a memorable fact not one of its stars was torn out by shot or shell. [Applause.] It was a prophecy. It said, not one State shall be struck from this nation by treason. [Applause.] The fulfillment is at hand. Lifted to the air to-day it proclaims, after four years of war, not a State is blotted out. [Applause.] Hail to the flag of our fathers and our flag; glory to the banner that has gone through four years, black with tempests of war, to pilot the nation back to peace without dismemberment; and glory be to God who, above all hosts and banners, hath ordained victory and shall ordain peace. [Applause.] Wherefore have we come hither pilgrims from distant places? Are we come to exult that Northern hands are stronger than Southern? No! but to rejoice that the hands of those who defend a just and beneficent government are mightier than the hands that assaulted it. [Loud applause.] Do we exult over fallen cities? We exult that a nation has not fallen. [Applause.] We sorrow with the sorrowful, we sympathize with the desolate, we look upon this shattered fort and yonder dilapidated city with sad eyes, grieved that men should have committed such treason, and glad that God had set such a mark upon treason, that all ages shall dread and abhor it. [Applause.] We exult, not for a passion gratified, but for a sentiment victorious; not for temper, but for conscience; not, as we devoutly believe, that our will is done, but that God's will hath been done. We should be unworthy of that liberty intrusted to our care, if, on such a day as this, we sullied our hearts by feelings of aimless vengeance, and equally unworthy if we did not devoutly thank Him who hath said, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord," that he hath put a mark upon arrogant rebellion ineffaceable while time lasts. Since this flag went down, on that dark day, who shall tell the mighty woes that have made this land a spectacle to angels and men! The soil has drank blood and is glutted; millions mourn for millions slain, or, envying the dead, pray for oblivion; towns and villages have been razed; fruitful fields have turned back to wilderness. It came to pass as the prophet said, the sun was turned to darkness and the moon to blood. The course of law was ended, the sword sat Chief Magistrate in half the nation, industry was paralyzed, morals corrupted, the public weal invaded by rapine and anarchy, and whole States were ravaged by avenging armies. The world was amazed and the earth reeled. When the flag sunk here, it was as if political night had come, and all beasts of fury had come forth to devour. That long night is ended, and for this returning day we have come from afar to rejoice and give thanks. No more war, no more accursed secession, no more slavery that spawned them both. [Great applause.] Let no man misread the meaning of this unfolding flag. It says government hath returned hither; it proclaims, in the name of vindicated government, peace and protection to loyalty, humiliation and pains to traitors. This is the flag of sovereignty. The nation, not the States, is sovereign restored to authority. This flag commands not supplicates. There may be pardon, but no concession. [Great applause.] There may be amnesty and oblivion, but no honied compromises. [Applause.] The nation to-day has peace for the peaceful, and war for the turbulent. [Applause.] The only condition of submission is to submit. There is the constitution, there are the laws, there is the government. They rise up like mountains of strength that shall not be moved. They are the conditions of peace. One nation under one government, without slavery' has been ordained and shall stand. There can be peace on no other basis. On this basis reconstruction is easy, and needs neither architect nor engineer. Without this basis no engineer or architect shall ever reconstruct these rebellious States. We do not want your cities nor your fields, we do not envy you your prolific soil, nor heavens full of perpetual Summer. Let agriculture revel here, let manufactures make every stream musical; build fleets in every port; surprise the arts of peace with genius second only to that of Athens, and we shall be glad in your gladness and rich in your wealth. All that we ask is unswerving loyalty and universal liberty, [applause,] and that in the name of this high sovereignty of the United States of America we demand, and that, with the blessing of Almighty God, we will have. [Great applause.] We raise our father's banner, that it may bring back better blessings than those of old, that it may oust out the devil of discord; that it may restore lawful government and a prosperity purer and more enduring than that which it protected before; that it may win parted friends from their alienation; that it may inspire hope and inaugurate universal liberty; that it may say to the sword, return to thy sheath, and to the plow and sickle, go forth; that it may heal all jealousies, unite all policies, inspire a new national life, compact our strength, purity our principles, ennoble our national ambitions, and make this people great and strong; not for aggression and quarrelsomeness, but for the peace of the world, giving to us the glorious prerogative of leading all nations to juster laws, to more humane policies, to sincere friendship, to rational instituted civil liberty, and to universal Christian brotherhood. Reverently, piously, in hopeful patriotism, we spread this banner on the sky, as of old the bow was planted on the cloud, and with a solemn fervor beseech God to look upon it and make it the memorial of an everlasting covenant, and decree that never again on this fair land shall a deluge of blood prevail. [Applause.] Why need any eye turn from this spectacle? Are there not associations which, overleaping the recent past, carry us back to times when over North and South the flag was honored alike by all? In all our colonial days we were one in the long revolutionary struggle, and in the scores of prosperous years succeeding. When the passage of the Stamp Act, in 1765, aroused the colonies, it was GADSDEN, of South Carolina, that cried with prescient enthusiasm, "We stand on the broad common ground of those, natural rights that we all feel and know as men. There ought to be no New-England man, no New-Yorker known on this continent, but all of us, said he, Americans. That was the voice of South Carolina, that shall be the voice of South Carolina, Faint is the echo; but it is coming; we now hear it sighing sadly through the pines, but it shall yet break upon the shore -- No north, no West, no South, but one United States of America. [Applause.] There is scarcely a man born in the South who has lifted his hand against this banner but had a father who would have died for it. Is memory dead? Is there no historic pride? Has a fatal fury struck blindness or hate into eyes that used to look kindly toward each other, that read the same Bible, that hung over the same historic pages of our national glory, that studied the same constitution? Let this uplifting bring back all of the past that was good, but leave in darkness all that was bad. It was never before so wholly unspotted, so clear of all wrong, so purely and simply the sign of justice and liberty. Did I say that we brought back the same banner that you bore away, noble and heroic Sir? It is not the same -- it is more and better than it was. The land is free from slavery since that banner fell. When God would prepare Moses for emancipation, the overthrew his first steps, and drove him for forty years to brood in the wilderness. When our flag came down, four years it lay brooding in darkness; it cried to the Lord, wherefore am I deposed? Then arose before it a vision of its sin. It had strengthened the strong and forgotten the weak. It proclaimed liberty, but trod upon slaves. In that seclution it dedicated itself to liberty. Behold, to-day it fulfills its vows. When it went down, four millions of people had not a flag; to-day it rises, and four million people cry out, behold our flag; hark, they murmur, it is the Gospel to the poor, it heals our broken hearts, it preaches deliverance to captives, it gives sight to the blind, it sets at liberty them that were bruised. Rise up, then, glorious gospel banner, and roll out these messages of God. Tell the air that not a spot now sullies thy whiteness, thy red is not the blush of shams, but the flush of joy. Tell the dews that wash thee that thou art pure as they; say to the night that thy stars lead toward the morning, and to the morning that a brighter day arises with healing in its wings, and then, oh glorious flag, bid the sun pour light on thy folds with double brightness, whilst thou art being, round and round the world, the solemn joy of a race set free, a nation redeemed. The mighty hand of government, made strong in war, by the favor of the God of battles, spreads wide to-day the banner of liberty, that went down in darkness, that arose in light, and there it streams like the sun above it, neither parcelled our nor monopolized, but flooding the air with light for all mankind. Ye scattered and broken, ye moulded and dying, bitten by the fiery serpents of oppression, everywhere in all the world look upon the sign lifted up, and live; and ye homeless and houseless slave, look, and you are free. At length you, too, have part and lot in this glorious ensign that broods with impartial love over small and great, the poor and the strong, the bond and the free. In this solemn hour let us pray for the quick coming of reconciliation and happiness under the common flag. But we must build again from the foundations in all these free Southern States. No cheap exhortation to forgetfulness of the past to restore all things as they were, will do. God does not stretch out his hand as he has for four dreadful years, that men may easily forget the might of his terrible acts. Restore things as they were? What, the alienations and jealousies, the discords and contentions, and the causes of them? No! In that solemn sacrifice which a nation has offered up for its sins, so many precious victims loved and lamented, let our sins and mistakes be consumed utterly and forever. No! Never again shall things be restored as before the war! It is written in God's decree of events fulfilled, "old things have passed away," and that new earth in which dwelleth righteousness draws near. Things as they were? Who has an omnipotent hand, to restore a million dead, stain in battle, or wasted by sickness, or dying of grief, broken-hearted? Who has omnipresence to search for the scattered ones? Who shall restore the lost to broken families? Who shall bring back the squandered treasure, the years of industry wasted, and convince you that four years of guilty rebellion and cruel war are no more than dirt upon the hand, which a moment's washing removes, and leaves the hand clean as before? Such a war reaches down to the very vitals of society. Emerging from such a prolonged rebellion, he is blind who tells you that the State, by a mere amnesty and benevolence of government can be put again by a mere decree in its old place. It would not be honest -- it would not be kind or fraternal for me to pretend that Southern revolution against the Union has not reacted and wrought revolution in the Southern States themselves, and inaugurated a new dispensation. Society is like a broken loom, and the piece which rebellion put in and was weaving has been cut, and every thread broken. You must put in new warp, and new woof, and weaving anew as the fabric slowly unwinds, we shall see in it no gorgon figures, no hideous grotesque of the old barbarism, but the figures of liberty, vines and golden grains, framing in the heads of justice, love and liberty. The august convention of 1787 framed the Constitution with this memorable preamble, "we the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union and establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain this Constitution for the United States of America." Again, in the awful convention of war, the people of the United States for the very ends just recited, have debated, settled, and ordained certain fundamental truths which must henceforth be accepted and obeyed; nor is any State or any individual wise who shall disregard them. They are to civil affairs what the natural laws are to health -- indispensable conditions of peace and happiness. What are the ordinances given by the people, speaking out of fire and darkness of war, with authority inspired by that same God who gave the law from Sinai amid thunders of trumpet voices: 1. That these United States shall be one and indivisible; 2. that States are not absolute sovereigns, and have no right to dismember the republic; 3. Universal liberty is indispensable to republican government, and that slavery shall be utterly and forever abolished. Such are the results of war these are the best fruits of the war. They are worth all they have cost. They are the foundations of peace. They will secure benefits to all nations as well as to us. Our highest wisdom and duty is to accept the facts as the decrees of God. We are exhorted horted to forget all that has happened. Yes, the wrath, the conflict, the cruelty, but not those overruling decrees of God which this war has pronounced as solemnly as on Mount Sinai, God says: "Remember -- remerber, hear it to-day, under this sun, under that bright child of the Summer banner, with the eyes of this nation land of the world upon us. We repeat the syllables of God's providence, and recite the solemn decrees -- No more disunion -- no more secession -- no more slavery. [Applause.] Why did this civil war begin? We do not wonder that European statesmen failed to comprehend this conflict, and foreign philanthropists were shocked at a murderous war that seemed to have had no moral origin, but like the brutal fight of beasts of prey to have sprung from ferocious animalism. This great nation, filling all profitable latitudes, cradled between two oceans with inexhaustible resources, with riches increasing in an unparalleled ratio, by agriculture, by manufacturers, by commerce, with schools and churches, with books and newspapers thick as leaves in our own forests, with institutions sprung from the people and peculiarly adapted to their genius -- a nation not sluggish, but active, used to excitement, practised in apolitical wisdom and accustomed to self-government, and all its vast outlying parts held together by a Federal Government mild in temper, gentle in administration, and beneficent in results, we do not wonder that it is not understood abroad. All at once in this hemisphere of happiness and hope there came trooping clouds with fiery bolts full of death and desolation. At a cannon shot upon this fort all the nation, as if they had been a trained army lying on their arms awaiting a signal, rose up and began a war which for awfulness rises into the first rank of bad eminence. The front of battle going with the sun was twelve hundred miles long, and the depth, measured along a meridian was a thousand miles. In this vast area more than two million men first and last for four years have in skirmish, fight and battle, met in more than a thousand conflicts, while a coast and river line not less than four thousand miles in length, has swarmed with fleets freighted with artillery. The very industry of the country seemed to have been touched by some infernal wand, and with one wheel changed it from peace to war. The anvils of the land beat like drums as out of the ooze emerge monsters; so from our mines and foundries uprose new and strange machines of war, iron-clad. And so in a nation of peaceful habits, without external provocation, there rose such a storm of war as blackened the whole horizon and hemisphere. What wonder that foreign observers stood amazed at this fanatical fury that seemed without Divine guidance, but inspired wholly with infernal frenzy? The explosion was sudden, but the train had long been laid. We must consider the condition of Southern society if we would understand the mystery of this iniquity. Society in the South resolves itself into divisions more sharply distinguished than in any other part of the nation. At the base is the laboring class, made up of slaves; the next it the middle class, made up of trading small farmers and poor men, the lower edge of this class touched the slave, and the upper edge reached up to the third, or ruling class. This class were a small minority in numbers, but in practiced ability they had centred in their hands the whole government of the South, and had mainly governed the country. Upon this polished, cultured, exceedingly capable, and wholly unprincipled class, rests the whole burden of this war, forced up by the bottom heat of slavery. The ruling class in the disloyal States arrogated to themselves superiority not compatible with republican equality nor with just morals. They claimed a right of preeminence. An evil prophet arose who trained these wild and luxuriant shoots of ambition to the shapely form of a political philosophy. By its vagaries they precipitated drudgery to the bottom of society, and left at the top what they thought to be a clarified fluid. In their political economy labor was to be owned by capital; in their theory of government a few were to rule the many. They boldly avowed, not the fact alone that under all forms of government the few rule the many, but their right and duty to do so. Set free from the necessity of labor, they conceived a contempt for those who felt its wholesome regimen Believing themselves foreordained to supremacy, they regarded the popular vote, when it failed to register their wishes, as an intrusion and a nuisance. They were born in a garden, and popular liberty, like freshets overswelling their banks, but covered their dainty walks and flowers with slime and mud of democratic votes. [Applause.] When, with shrewd observation, they saw the growth of the popular element in the Northern States, they instinctively took in the inevitable events. It must be controlled, or cut off from a nation governed by gentlemen. Controlled less and less could it be in every decade, and they prepared secretly, earnestly and with wide conference and with mutual connivance. We are to distinguish between the pretence and means and causes of this war. To inflam and unite the great middle class of the South, who had no interest and no business with war, they at leged grievances that never existed, and employed arguments which they, better than all other men knew to be specious and false. Slavery itself was cared for only as an instrument of power or of excitement. They had unalterably fixes their eye upon empire, and all was good which could secure that, and bad which hindered it. Thus the ruling class of the South, an aristocracy as intense, proud and inflexible as ever existed, not limited either by customs or institutions, no recognized and adjusted in the regular order of society, playing a reciprocal part in its machinery, but secretly disowning its own existence, baptized with ostentatious names of democracy, obsequious to the people for the sake of governing, that this nameless, lurking aristocracy, that ran in the blood of society like a rash not yet come to the skin; this political tapeworm, that produced nothing but lay coiled in the body, feeding on its nutriment and holding the whole structure but a servant set up to nourish it; this aristocracy of the plantation, with firm and deliberate resolve, brought on the war that they might cut the land in two, and, clearing themselves from incorrigible free society, set up a sterner, statelier empire, where slaves worked that gentlemen might live at ease. Nor can there be any doubt, that though at first they mean; to erect the form of republican government, this was but a device -- a step necessary to the securing of that power by which they should be able to change the whole economy of society. That they never dreamed of such a war we may I well believe; that they would have accepted it though twice as bloody, if only thus they could rule, none can doubt that knows the temper of the worst men of modern society. [Applause.] But they miscalculated; they understood the people of the South, but they were totally incapable of understanding the character of the great working classes of the loyal States. That industry which is the foundation of independence and so of equity, they stigmatized as stupid drudgery or as mean avarice; that general intelligence and independence of thought which schools for common people and newspapers breed, they reviled as the incitement of unsettled zeal, running easily into fanaticism. They more thoroughly misunderstood the profound sentiment of loyalty, the deep love of country which pervaded the common people, if these who knew them best had never suspected the depth and power of that love of country which threw it into an agony of grief when the flag was here humbled, how should they conceive of it who were wholly disjoined from them in sympathy? The whole land rose up, you remember, when the flag came down, as if inspired unconsciously by the breath of the Almighty and the power of omnipotence. It was as when one pierces the banks of the Mississippi for a rivulet, and the whole raging stream plunges through with headlong course. There they calculated and miscalculated. And more than all, they miscalculated the bravery off men who have been trained under law; who are civilized, and hate personal brawls, who are so protracted by society is to have dismissed all thought of self-defence, the whole force of whose life is turned to peaceful pursuit. These arrogant conspirators against government, with Chinese variety, believed that they could blow away the self-respecting citizens as chaff from the battle-field. Few of them are left alive to ponder this mistake. Here there are the roots of this civil war. It was not a quarrel of wild beasts; it was an infliction of the strife of ages between power and right -- between ambition and equity. An armed band of pestilent conspirators sought the nation's life; her children rose up and fought at every door, and room, and hall, to thrust out the murderers and save the house and household. It was not legitimately a war between the common people of the North and South. The war was set on by the ruling class, the aristocratic conspirators of the South. They suborned the common people with lies, with sophistries, with creel deceits add slanders, to fight for secret objects which they abhorred, and against interests as dear to them at their own lives. I charge the whole guilt of this war upon the ambitious educated ploting political leaders of the South. [Applause.] They have shed this ocean of blood. They have desolated the South. They have poured poverty through all her towns and cities. They have bewildered the imagination of the people with fantasms, and led them to believe they were fighting for their homes and liberty, whose homes were not threatened, and whose liberty was in no jeopardy. These arrogant instigators of civil war have renewed the plagues of Egypt, not that the oppressed might go free, but that the free might be oppressed. A day will come when God will reveal judgment and arraign at his bar these mighty miscreants, and then every orphan that their bloody game has made, and every widow that sits sorrowing, and every maimed and wounded sufferer, and every bereaved heart in all the wide regions of this land, will rise up and come before the Lord to lay upon these chief culprits of modern history their awful witness, and from a thousand battle fields shall rise up armies of airy witnesses, who, with the memory of their awful sufferings, shall confront these miscreants with shrieks of fierce accusation, and every pale and starved prisoner shall raise his skinny hand in judgment. Blood shall call out for vengeance, and tears shall plead for justice, and grief shall silently beckon, the heart smitten shall wait for justice, good men and angels will cry out how long. O Lord, how long wilt thou not avenge? And then these guiltiest and most remorseless traitors, these high and cultured men with might and wisdom used for the destruction of their country, these most accursed and detested of all criminals, that have drenched a continent in needless blood, and moved the foundations of their times with hideous crimes and cruelty, caught up in black clouds full of voices of vengeance and lurid punishment, shall be whirled aloft and plunged downward forever and forever, in an endless retribution, while God shall say, thus shall it be with all who betray their country, and all in heaven and upon earth will say, amen. [Voices -- Amen, amen!] But for the people misled -- for the multitude drafted and driven into this civil war -- let not a trace of animosity remain. [Applause.] The moment their willing hand drop the musket and they return to their allegiance, then stretch out your own honest right hand to greet them. Recall to them the old days of kindness. Our hearts wait for their redemption. All resources of a renovated nation shall be applied to rebuild their prosperity and smooth down the furrows of war.
    Has this long and weary strife been an unmingled evil, has nothing been gained? Yes, much the nation has attained to its manhood. Among Indian customs is one which admits young men to the rank of warriors. Only after seven trials of hunger, fatigue, pain, endurance, they reach their station not through years but ordeals. Our nation has suffered and now is strong. The sentiment of loyalty and patriotism, next to importance to religion, has been rooted and grounded; we have something to be proud of, and pride helps love never so much as now did we love our country. [Great applause.] But four such years of education in ideas in the knowledge of political truth in the love of history in the geography of our own country, almost every inch of which we have probed with the bayonet, have never passed before. There is half a hundred years' advance in four. We believed in our institutions and principles before, but now we know their power. It is one thing to look upon artillery and be sure that it is loaded; it is another thing to receive its discharge. [Laughter.] We believed in the hidden power stored in our institutions. We had never before seen this nation thundering like Mount Sinai at all those that worshipped the calf at the foot of the mountain. A people educated and moral are competent to all the exigencies of national life a vote can govern better than a crown. We have proved it. [Applause.] A people intelligent and religious are strong in all economic elements. They are fitted for peace and competent to war, they are not easily inflamed, and when justly incensed not easily extinguished, they are patient in adversities, endure cheerfully needful burdens, tax themselves for real ants more royally than any prince would dare to tax this people, they pour forth without stint relief for the suffering of war, and raise charity out of the realm of a dole into a munificent duty of beneficience. The habit of industry among freemen prepares them to meet the exhaustion of war with increase of productiveness commensurate with the need that exists. Their habits of skill enable them at once to supply such armies as only freedom can muster with arms and munitions such as only free industry can create. Free society is terrible in war and afterward repairs the mischief of war with celerity almost as great as that with which the ocean heals the seams gashed in it by the keel of the plowing ship. Free society is fruitful of military genius -- it comes when called when no longer needed it falls back as waves do to the level of the common sea; that no wave may be greater; that the undivided water, with proof of strength so great, yet in its infancy, we stand up among the nations of the world, asking no privileges, asserting no rights, but quietly assuming our place, and determined to be second to none in the race of civilization and religion. Of all nations, we are the most dangerous, and the least to be feared. [Laughter and applause.]
    We need not expound the perils that await upon enemies that assault, as they are sufficiently understood, [laughter,] but we are not a dangerous people, because we are warlike. All the arrogant attitudes of this nation, so offensive to foreign governments, were inspired by slavery and under the administration of its minion. Our tastes, our habits, our interests, and our principles, incline us to the arts of peace. This nation was founded by the common people for the common people. We are seeking to embody in public economy more liberty with higher justice and virtue than have been organized before. By the necessity of our doctrines we are put in sympathy with the masses of men in all nations. It is not our business to subdue nations, but to augment the powers of the common people. The vulgar ambition of mere domination, as it belongs to universal human nature, may tempt us, but it is withstood by the whole force of our principle, our habits, our precedents, and our legends. We acknowledge the obligation which our better political principles lay upon us to act an example more temperate, humane and just than monarchical governments can. We will not suffer wrong, and still less will we inflict it upon other nations. Nor are we concerned that so many ignorant of our conflict for the present misconceive the reasons of our invincible literary zeal. Why contend, say they, for a little territory that you do not need? Because it is ours. [Laughter and applause.] Because it is the interest of every citizen to save it from becoming a fortress and refuge of iniquity. This nation is our house and our father's house, and accursed be the man who will not defend it to the uttermost. [Applause.] More territory than we need! England, that is not large enough to be our pocket, [laughter] may think that it is more than we need, because it is more than they need, but we are better judges of what we need than they are. Shall a philanthropist say to a banker who defends himself against a robber, "Why do you need so much money?" But we will not reason with such questions. When any foreign nation willingly will divide their territory, and give it cheerfully away, we will answer the question why we are fighting for territory [laughter] at present, for I pass to the consideration of benefits that accrue to the South; in distinction from the test of the nation, the South reaps only suffering, but good seed lies buried under the furrows of war that peace will bring to harvest. First, deadly doctrines have been purged away in blood. The subtle poison of secession was a perpetual thread of revolution. The sword has ended that danger. That which reason had affirmed as a philosophy, the people have settled as a fact. [Applause.] There can be no permanent government where each integral particle has liberty to fly off who would venture upon a voyage on a ship each plank and timber of which might withdraw at its pleasure? [Laughter and applause.] But the people have reasoned by the logic [of the sword and of the ballot, and they have declared that States are inseparable parts of the National Government. They are not sovereign. State rights remain, but sovereignty is a right higher than all others, and that has been made into a common stock for the benefit of all. [Applause.] All further agitation is ended. This element must be cast out of political problems henceforth, that that poison will not wrankle in the blood. Another thing has been learned -- the rights and duties of minorities. The people of the whole nation are of more authority than the people any section. These United States are supreme over the Northern, Western and Southern States. It ought not to have required the awful chastisement of this war to teach that a minority must submit the control of the nation's government to the majority. The army and navy have been good political schoolmasters. [Laughter and applause.]
    What then shall hinder the rebuilding of this republic? The evil spirit is cast out; why should not this nation cease to wander among tombs cutting itself? Why should it not come clothed and in its right mind to sit at the feet of Jesus? Is it feared that the government will oppress the conquered States? What possible motive has the government to narrow the base of that pyramid on which its own permanence stands? Is it feared that the rights of the States will be withheld? The South is not more jealous of State rights than the North. State rights, from the earliest colonial days, have been the peculiar pride and jealousy of New-England. In every stage of national formation, it was peculiarly Northern, and not Southern, statesmen who guarded State rights, especially as we were forming the Constitution. But once united, the loyal States gave up forever that which had been delegated to the National Government, and now, in the hour of victory, the loyal States do not mean to trench upon Southern States rights. They will not do it, nor suffer it to be done. There is not to be one rule for high latitudes and another for low. We take nothing from the Southern States that has not already been taken from the Northern. The South shall have just those rights that every Eastern, every Middle, every Western State has -- no more, no less. We are not seeking our own aggrandizement by impoverishing the South. Its prosperity is an indispensable element of our own. We have shown by all that we have suffered in war how great is our estimate of the importance of the Southern States of this Union, and we will measure that estimate now in peace by still greater exertions for their rebuilding. Will reflecting men not perceive, then, the wisdom of accepting established facts and with alacrity of enterprise begin to retrieve the past? Slavery cannot come back. It is the interest, therefore, of every man to hasten its end. Do you want more war? Are you not yet weary of contest? Will you gather up the unexploded fragments of this prodigious magazine of mischief and heap them up for continued explosions? Does not the South need peace? and since free labor is inevitable, will you have it in its worst forms or its best? Shall it be ignorant, impertinent, indolent, or shall it be educated, self-especting, moral and self-supporting? Will you have men as drudges, or will you have them as citizens? Since they have vindicated the government and cemented its foundation stones with their blood, may they not offer their tribute of support to maintain its laws and its policy? It is better for religion, it is better for political integrity, it is better for industry, it is better for money, if you will have that motive, that you should educate the black man, and by education make him a citizen. [Applause.] They who refuse education to the black man would turn the South into a vast poorhouse, and labor into a pendulum of necessity, vibrating between poverty and indolence. From this pulpit of broken stone, we speak forth our earnest greeting to all our land; we offer to the President of the United States our solemn congratulations that God has sustained his life and health under the unparalleled burdens and sufferings of four bloody years, and permitted him to behold this auspicious consummation of that national unity for which he has waited with so much patience and fortitude, and for which he has labored with such disinterested wisdom. [Applause.] To the members of the government associated with him in the administering of perilous affairs in critical times; to the Senators and Representatives of the United States, who have eagerly fashioned the instruments by which the popular will might express and enforce itself, we tender our grateful thanks. [Applause.] To the officers and men of the army, who have so faithfully, skillfully and gloriously upheld their country's authority by suffering, labor and sublime courage, we offer here a tribute beyond the compass of words. [Great applause.] Upon these true and faithful citizens, men and women who have borne up with unflinching hope in the darkest hour, and covered the land with their labors of love and charity, we invoke the divinest blessing of Him whom they have so faithfully imitated. [Applause.] But chiefly to Thee, God of our fathers! we render thanksgiving and praise for that wondrous providence that has brought forth from such a harvest of war the seed of so much liberty and peace. We invoke peace upon the North; peace be to the West; peace be upon the South. In the name of God, we lift up our banner and dedicate it to Peace, Union and Liberty, now and forever more. Amen! [Great applause.]
    How to Cite This Page: "Reverend Henry Ward Beecher's remarks at the ceremony restoring the flag to Fort Sumter, South Carolina, April 14, 1865," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,